GMail, SaaS and Choice

Yesterday GMail went down for about 1.5 hours.  If you followed this on Twitter, you thought the world had ended.  It was all over CNN, MSNBC and numerous other media outlets.  According to the GMail blog, the outage affected the web interface to GMail, not POP3 or IMAP clients.  People accessing GMail through their iPhones or Blackberrys were also fine.  The outage was because of some routine maintenance that overloaded a few of the routers.  

Some people will look at this outage as another reason to not move to Software as a Service (SaaS) or other hosted software solutions.  I look at this as just another situation where a system had a minor hiccup and one of my contingency plans took

over.  I use GMail as one of three email systems.  My company email is hosted by Microsoft, my personal email is hosted by Comcast and I use GMail for both work and personal reasons.  Since the point of email is to communicate with people, I had several options yesterday to continue communicating.  My phone was still working (both cell and landline).  Twitter and Facebook were still working.  IM was still working.  And of course I could still get to GMail through my POP3 client.  I still had a choice of how to communicate.  I had a backup.

When there was a terrible ice storm in NH last year, my electricity was out for days.  My contingency plan was to turn on the generator.  I had a choice and a backup plan.  Network administrators always make sure they have redundant WAN links for their businesses.  When I go hiking I always carry an extra sweater and a pair of socks.  When I travel in an airplane, I always bring a Cliff bar just in case I don’t have time to get food during my trip.  When Google search went down for a few hours weeks ago, I used Bing.  Rather than relying on a single system, I always have a backup.

GMail is a SaaS application.  It was down for those who access it through a browser for a short time.  When I used an internal Microsoft Exchange system, that was my sole email application and it went down more frequently.  I have faith that SaaS is a better option because the systems have to be more reliable given how many people they support.  And they give me a choice.  If GMail can’t meet my needs, I can move to Microsoft Hotmail or Yahoo mail or a hundred other providers.  I am not locked into these systems.  Moving my old Exchange system to another one was much harder.  I like the choices that SaaS gives me.  It always gives me a backup plan.

photo credit Gnurf


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